This will help to cut down costs but it will also save airlines a major headache given the current pilot crisis. Nordlund says development is progressing at “good speed,” adding that the company “believes in autonomous flight and [the] self-piloted aircraft.”
However, because of existing aviation rules and people’s reticence of trusting their lives to technology almost one hundred percent, the technology will probably be used first on cargo jets, Nordlund concedes. Once testing is carried out and the results are encouraging, the company will consider implementing it on passenger airplanes.
Of course, that would mean a change in international regulation. For the time being, Europe’s aviation safety authority, EASA, wouldn’t even discuss such a possibility, even though Boeing isn’t the only company working on autonomous technology – Airbus has also gone public with plans in this direction.
“I don't think you'll see a pilotless aircraft of a 737 in the near future,” Nordlund explains. “But what you may see is more automation and aiding in the cockpit, maybe a change in the crew number up in the cockpit.”
“A combination of safety, economics and technology all have to converge, and I think we are starting to see that,” the Boeing vice president adds.